Full-Time Enrollment

Course enrollment is the most important aspect of being an international student in the US on an F-1 visa. International students must enroll in a certain minimum number of credit hours of coursework per semester in order to be considered enrolled in a “full course of study” and maintain valid student status for immigration purposes. Academic English and Pathway students are automatically enrolled full-time each semester. Degree-seeking undergraduate students must enroll in at least 12 total credit hours each semester. Degree-seeking graduate students must enroll in at least 9 total credit hours each semester.

Online Enrollment Policy

  • Undergraduate Students

    At least 9 of your minimum 12 credit hours each semester must be in face-to-face, in-person instruction in a classroom [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)]. You can enroll in multiple online classes, as long as you still remain enrolled at least 9 credit hours of face-to-face instruction per semester. It is your responsibility to discuss this policy with your academic advisor so that it can be factored in to your study plan.

  • Graduate Students

    At least 6 of your minimum 9 credit hours each semester must be in face-to-face, in-person instruction in a classroom [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)]. You can enroll in multiple online classes, as long as you still remain enrolled in at least 6 credit hours of face-to-face instruction per semester. It is your responsibility to discuss this policy with your academic advisor so that it can be factored in to your study plan.

  • Online Enrollment During Final Term of Study

    If you need to take only one class in your final semester in order to graduate, that class must be in face-to-face, classroom instruction, not online. Work with your advisor ahead of time to plan accordingly. You can enroll in an online class during your final semester only if you are also enrolled in a face-to-face, classroom instruction class as well. As an example, if you need 6 credit hours to graduate during your final semester, you can take one 3-credit online class and one 3-credit face-to-face class and submit a Reduced Course Load Form - Final Term for ISSS approval.

Extending Your Program of Study and/or Changing Education Levels

The Program End Date on your Form I-20 reflects the date by which you are expected to complete the academic requirements for your current program. On rare occasions, it may be necessary to extend the Program End Date by a semester. Contact ISSS at least 30 days before your current Program End Date to see if you are eligible for an extension. If your Program End Date has already passed, contact ISSS immediately.

The delay in completing program requirements and the need for an extension must be caused by compelling academic reasons (such as a change of major field or research topic, or unexpected research problems) or compelling and documented medical reasons. Academic probation and/or suspension are not acceptable reasons for extending a program of study.

  • Application Procedures

    Your Academic Advisor must complete a Recommendation of Extension Form and email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If a letter is substituted, it should normally a) certify that you have been continuously enrolled for a full course of study, b) recommend an extension of your study program, c) provide a new date when you are expected to complete your studies, and/or d) verify the reason(s) for the delay in your completion of program requirements.

    Download Extension Recommendation Form (PDF)
  • Failure to Comply with Program Extension Regulations

    It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations applicable to F-1 students, including the extension of study program regulations. ISSS will assist you with this. If your I-20 Program End Date will soon pass or has passed, immediately contact ISSS. If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, you may not be eligible to continue (or to apply for) benefits provided to F-1 students. For example, you may not be eligible to continue any type of employment (including on-campus employment) or apply for school transfer, practical training, or other F-1 student benefits.

Authorized Reduced Course Load

Students can request a reduced course load for the following reason:

  • Academic Difficulties
  • Medical Condition (must provide documentation from a licensed physician)
  • Final Semester
  • Completion of Required Graduate Coursework
  • Annual Vacation

Your advisor must sign one of the following forms for ISSS to consider authorizing a reduced course load:

“Vacation” Semester

Don’t worry--You don’t actually have to leave the US or take a “vacation” during your “vacation” semester! During an official vacation semester, you can still remain on campus, and you will be eligible to enroll in fewer than 12 credit hours and are not subject to the restrictions in online class enrollment. For example, you can take 6 credit hours and earn all 6 credit hours from online courses. However, your final graduation semester cannot be during a “vacation” semester, and if you have only one class left to graduate, that class cannot be online.

Degree-seeking international students are eligible for one official “vacation” semester each academic year. If you begin your degree-seeking program during the spring semester, you can take the summer semester as your vacation. If you begin your degree-seeking program during the fall semester, you must wait to take your vacation until the summer semester.

You must notify an international student advisor with ISSS that you want to take an official vacation semester so that we can keep your student record active in the online Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

One benefit of taking a “vacation” semester is that you are eligible to work on-campus full-time during that official vacation semester. Please see additional information on our Employment page.

Withdrawal

If you need to withdraw from UAB for the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19 or other complications, please complete and return this form to us as soon as possible. Remember, your withdrawal will be authorized! This is not considered a red flag or negative event on your SEVIS record.